A ringing endorsement for golf in the Games

By Rex HoggardAugust 14, 2016, 9:10 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO – Those who figured golf was never suited for the Olympic podium, that the game’s majors made the Rio experiment a square hoop amid the Olympic rings, were given an alternative to consider on Sunday.

On a warm and sunny day in Rio the world watched golf. Really, the world, not just the avid core who have driven the game for decades.

The majors will always hold a place above and beyond anything else in golf - history wouldn’t allow any other ranking - and the Ryder Cup enjoys special status regardless of the lopsided nature of the last few matches.

But Olympic golf, a novelty concept for most until this week’s event, proved to be something different, something neither better nor worse than the game’s predetermined benchmarks but definitely apart from the norm.

What else could explain Matt Kuchar’s emotions after closing with a 63 to secure the bronze medal.

“This was a chance to medal and do something; my heart was pounding,” said Kuchar, who closed with an Olympic record-equaling 63. “I can assure you I’ve never been so excited to finish top 3 in my life. I’ve never felt this sort of pride just busting out of my chest before.”

It wasn’t an entirely perfect introduction for the game after a 112-year hiatus. The two biggest storylines heading into Sunday were Matthew McConaughey, the man of Oscar-winning fame who made a cameo at the event on Friday to watch Rickie Fowler, and capybaras, the oversized rats that call the Olympic Golf Course home.

Some of that languid start had to do with Marcus Fraser, an engaging Australian who set the early pace for two days. But the 90th-ranked player in the world did little to improve golf’s appeal considering he was the sixth-best Australian who received his Olympic start only after Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones declined to make the trip.

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The four Americans in the field also added little to the buzz through three days, with the group a collective 5 over par in Round 1 and none of them inside the top 10 heading into the final round.

On Sunday, however, the game responded with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson quickly separating themselves from the field and turned what was always going to be a marathon relative to most Olympic sports into a medal-deciding sprint.

The Swede took a share of the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt at the second, the Englishman answered to regain his advantage with a 4-footer at the third and so it went.

The two were tied after the 10th hole and Stenson knotted the proceedings again with a 4 -ooter for birdie at the 16th hole to set up the kind of dramatic exchange one expects at the game’s most important events.

History will show Rose won England’s first gold medal in golf by a cool two strokes, but that detail ignores Stenson’s three-putt at the last after his bold birdie attempt ran some 8 feet past the hole. Players had said all along they wouldn’t play any differently with medals on the line than they would if it were a major, and Stenson’s play proved the point.

Although silver may be an acquired consolation for golfers, Stenson acknowledged the surreal satisfaction of a trip to the Olympic podium, even if the shade of medal (silver) wasn’t exactly what he’d hope to go home with.

“I wanted to put myself in contention and fight it out for the medals and I did that,” said Stenson, who closed with a 68 for a 14-under total. “Of course I would have liked to sit there with the gold rather than a silver but all in all I'm pretty pleased with my performance.”

It’s a testament to Stenson’s resolve this year that his finish was somewhat tempered by what has been by any measure an eventful season after he began the year fresh off knee surgery and withdrew from the Qatar Masters and from the U.S. Open with neck and knee issues.

But he rebounded from those setbacks by winning his first major last month at Royal Troon and seemed to embrace the unique satisfaction of a silver medal on Sunday in Rio.

Even Kuchar’s bronze medal-winning performance was captivating when you consider on July 2, a week before the deadline to qualify for the Games, he was outside the top 15 in the world ranking.

The 38-year-old tied for third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to move to No. 15 in the world and when Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth declined their spots on the American team Kuchar found himself bound for Rio.

“I had a great last couple months of golf that crept me inside the top 15 in the world ranking,” said Kuchar, who spent exactly two weeks in the top 15 to earn his spot as an Olympian. “It took a couple guys not playing for me to get in and I thought this might just be fate.”

Not bad for a guy who just a week earlier was unclear on the format for this week’s competition.

But it was Rose’s victory, a ball-striking masterpiece that at least outwardly appeared effortless, that sealed golf’s transition from a curiosity to a competitive fit for the Olympics.

Throughout all the turmoil that seemed to consume golf’s return to the Games – from construction delays at the Rio golf course to concerns over the Zika virus that drove away a healthy portion of the game’s top players – Rose never wavered in his commitment to Olympic golf.

That dedication began with his decision to arrive in Rio early to march in the Opening Ceremony and his dogged focus to treat these Games as more than just a sightseeing adventure interrupted by the occasional round of golf.

While the American team basked in the glow of the Olympic flame, rubbing elbows with other athletes and making regular calls to other events, Rose approached the event with a singular focus.

On Saturday American Bubba Watson admitted, “This is a dream of a lifetime. I'm hanging with the athletes. I mean, golf just gets in my way. I want to go watch the other sports.”

While that approach is perfectly understandable, admirable even for those who had never even been given the opportunity to dream in Olympic terms, it wasn’t good enough for Rose.

Rose savored the experience, but never lost focus on why he was in Rio.

“I made a big deal of this all year,” said Rose, who finished his week with four rounds in the 60s (67-69-65-67) for a 16-under total. “I got in on Friday - that’s typical with what I would do for a major. I felt very inspired this week, very focused and motivated.”

There’s no accounting for what place Olympic golf will hold in the hierarchy of importance in coming years. The fact is the game is assured only one more start in 2020 at the Tokyo Games, but if Sunday’s finale holds any sway it certainly made a persuasive pitch to remain on the podium.

Asked how he would debate the benefits of golf remaining on the Olympic program, Rose went with an economy of words: “Anybody making the decision I’d ask, were you in Rio on Sunday?”

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Rose's Saturday 64 matches Carnoustie Open record

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 1:03 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose needed to sink a 14-foot putt on the final hole Friday just to make the cut on the number at The Open.

Freewheeling when he came to the course Saturday, Rose tied the lowest score ever recorded in an Open at Carnoustie.

Entering the weekend nine shots off the lead, the world No. 3 carded a bogey-free, 7-under 64 to at least make things interesting. It won’t be known for several hours how many shots Rose will be behind, but his back-nine 30 gives him an opportunity, if the wind blows 25 mph Sunday as forecast, to challenge the leaders.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After all, Paul Lawrie was 10 shots back entering the final round here in 1999.

“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning,” said Rose, who is at 4-under 209. “So that might have been part of the shift in mindset today. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”

Rose’s 64 matched Steve Stricker and Richard Green’s record score at Carnoustie (2007).

It also was Rose’s career-low round in a major.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 12:45 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)